I had the blessed opportunity to be invited to a photography exhibition titled “Breath of the Fragrant City” by French photographer Patrick de Mervelec.

The exhibition was held at Amplify Studio situated in Cape Town. The exhibition was curated by George Reeves and overviewed by Cally Aurouet & Elodye Davids. The event was opened by the Consul General of France Mr Xavier D’argoueves.

As the Curatorial Statement provides:

Patrick de Mervelec creates a visually poetic and sensual essay conveying the uniquely volatile and enigmatic character of the ‘Mother City’ – her landscapes and seascapes, windswept beaches, trees gnarled by the weather, ghostly boats emerging through the mist, bewitched by her cliff-lined coast as they sail to a safe port, navigating past the wrecks spread out round the coastline…”

As the Artist’s Statement provides, the exhibition shows:

The ambivalence of this city: an urban precinct, yet set in a wild and remote world, inescapably ruled by nature, dominated by the intense moodiness of the elements. Here one roams through images that awaken the senses, lure one in, misty silhouettes, vessels that shimmer beyond the waves, shores of oriental splendour where distant suns build idyllic cities. Heady atmospheres of rich cultural extremes are embraced in the mountain’s contours; this metropolis is unpredictable, alluring, bewitching; like a mysterious woman, you inhale her fragrance, you discover and uncover her secrets.

The “Breath of the Fragrant City” collection was truly breath-taking. Patrick is an extraordinary photographer. You can tell from his work that he works with an image and directs the image and manages to take you on a journey. Through his images he doesn’t show you the norm, instead he shows you the sincerity, pure intensity, diversity and ambiguity of Cape Town.


Patrick was born in Paris in 1945. He worked in France until 1998 when he moved to South Africa. He studied photography at the Institut National de la Photographie in Paris before becoming an assistant photographer to Maurice Tabarad – one of the greatest masters of the surrealist movement and a peer of Man Ray’s – who became his mentor. Tabard’s still life and innovative solarisation techniques still influence Patrick to this day.

Also because of Tabard, Patrick developed an incisive eye and learnt to capture images at speed. This gave him a knack for street photography and reportage and he became a grand reporter at Paris Match, covering the frenzied events of the sixties, doing features on the Beatles, Deneuve, Piaf or Churchill. Parallel to this he was fashion photographer for a number of publications including Marie-Claire, Haper’s Bazaar, Vogue and l’Officiel.

Patrick is one of the top French photographers and was a member of the Paris based Fondation Leica (1981-1991). This legendary group included Salgado, Klein, Roversi, Doisneau, Sieff, and Depardon.

Over the years Ptrick has also gained much experience in advertising photography and especially enjoyed working on the presidential election campaign for political leaders including Francois Mitterrand (“La Force Tranquille”), Emil Constantinescu, Mesut Yilmaz, and Thabo Mbeki.

During the seventies Patrick entered the theatrical world as actor and director where he worked with Gilles Bouillon, Peter Brook, Yoshi Oida, Andreas Voutzinas, Delphine Seyrig, and Claude Brasseur. In 1973 he directed a documentary movie “L’Atelier” focusing on the Actors Studio and Lee Strasberg’s “method acting”.

The art of portraiture has always been intrinsic to Ptrick’s work as he loves interacting with people. His approach is one of candour and simplicity and his images unravel the identity and tell something of the story of the person he is working with. Patrick has created photographic collections on a variety of different themes from nude studies to documentary photography, landscapes and dance.

Over the years he has conducted a series of master classes in photography, the most recent of which was in 2016 at the Summer Academy, Venicea, during the Biennale.

Here are my favourite highlights from the exhibition:




















Until next time




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